What to Do if Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen

Quick Answer

If your wallet is lost or stolen, contact your credit card issuers, freeze your credit cards, request a fraud alert, replace your driver’s license and monitor your accounts.

What to Do if Your Wallet Is Lost or Stolen article image.

It can be frustrating and scary to deal with the loss or theft of your wallet. But if you act fast once you discover your wallet is missing, you should be able to ease or even prevent harm to your credit card and bank accounts. Here are nine steps to take if your wallet is lost or stolen.

1. Freeze Your Credit Cards

Immediately freezing your credit cards can help prevent unauthorized purchases following the loss or theft of your wallet.

A credit card freeze enables you to pause most transactions. In general, you can initiate a freeze through a card issuer's website or app. You'll pay no fee or penalty to freeze your account, and you can unfreeze it at any time.

Keep in mind that even though your card is frozen, you'll still need to make monthly payments toward an unpaid balance and still be required to pay interest on that balance.

2. Contact Your Credit Card Issuers

After you've frozen your credit cards, reach out to each issuer to report a lost or stolen card as soon as possible. You can find the phone number of the issuer on your credit card or your monthly statement.

Follow up with a letter to each card issuer that includes your account number, the time and date when you realized your card went missing, and when you initially reported the loss. Keep a copy of each letter along with your notes from calls with the card issuer.

If you report a missing credit card before it's used without your permission, the card issuer can't hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges made by a third party. But if unauthorized use happens after you report a missing card, the most you may be responsible for is $50 in charges.

If an unauthorized third party uses your card number but not the card itself, you're not responsible for any fraudulent charges. Nonetheless, you should report such charges right away.

3. Contact Your Bank or Credit Union

Did your lost or stolen wallet contain a debit or ATM card? If so, you should notify your bank or credit union as soon as possible. You generally can do this by phone, online or through an app.

If you report the lost or stolen card to your financial institution within two business days of discovering it's missing, your liability will be the lesser of:

  • $50
  • The dollar amount of unauthorized transactions that happened before the financial institution was notified

Keep in mind that if you notify your financial institution after the two-day window closes, your liability could jump as high as $500.

Your bank or credit union may be able to freeze your debit or ATM card if you simply can't find it. A freeze usually can be done through the financial institution's website or app. If you locate a lost card, the freeze can be lifted. But if the card has been stolen or remains lost, the financial institution will cancel the card and issue a new one.

It may take several business days for a new card to be mailed to you. Some banks and credit unions can even print a new card within minutes at one of their branches.

4. Notify the Police

If your wallet has been lost or stolen, you should file a report with the police department where the loss or theft happened. Unfortunately, the department won't dispatch officers to hunt for your wallet. But a police report about a lost or stolen wallet might help your case if you become a victim of identity theft or fraud.

Details you should share with police include:

  • When and where you think the wallet was lost or stolen
  • What was in the wallet
  • What the wallet looks like
  • What the potential thief looks like

5. Notify the Social Security Administration

Most of us have memorized our Social Security number so we don't have to carry around a Social Security card. But if you put your card in your wallet (which is never advised), contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) right away through its website or visit a local SSA office.

The SSA can issue a replacement card but not a new Social Security number. Therefore, you may need to take action to protect your identity. For instance, if you believe your Social Security number was used to commit identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338 or IdentityTheft.gov).

6. Set Up a Fraud Alert

To protect your identity after the loss or theft of a wallet, be sure to monitor your credit reports.

You have the right to request a free security alert at the Experian fraud center. Each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) is required by law to share security alerts with the other two, so you don't need to set up an alert with all three bureaus. This notifies lenders pulling your credit as part of a credit application to take extra steps to verify your identity.

If you want even more protection, you have the right to freeze your credit. A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, limits access to your credit file. You'll need to lift, or unfreeze, your credit when applying for credit. It costs nothing to freeze or unfreeze your credit.

7. Replace Your Driver's License

Chances are your lost or stolen wallet contained your driver's license or state ID. If that's the case, reach out to your state's department of motor vehicles or secretary of state's office to report the missing license or ID. Better yet, consider visiting a local office that issues driver's licenses and IDs in your state to begin the process of obtaining a new one.

8. Come Up With a List of Everything That Was in Your Wallet

At some point, you'll need to replace all the important things (other than your driver's license) that were in your wallet, such as insurance cards. While it's still fresh in your mind, make a list of items that were in your wallet so you can contact the appropriate organizations. Doing so can help prevent medical identity theft and other problems.

9. Monitor Your Accounts

As you're recovering from the loss or theft of a wallet, you should put extra effort into monitoring your bank and credit card accounts for suspicious activity. Be sure to track real-time updates through your account's website or app. In addition, carefully review monthly statements and regularly go over your credit reports to catch unusual transactions or inquiries.

The Bottom Line

Fortunately, the financial damage from the loss or theft of your wallet can be reduced or even avoided if you act quickly to report the incident, monitor your accounts and make other fraud-fighting moves. In this situation, speed is on your side. For extra peace of mind, you may want to sign up for the Experian IdentityWorks℠ identity theft monitoring service after the loss or theft of your wallet.